Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentines Day & Love Languages

Yesterday we celebrated what advertisers tout as the most romantic of all days, St. Valentine's Day. In fact as soon as the Christmas inventory is removed from store shelves, Cupid lands with his hearts and flowers. A month or more of commercials defining love by expressions of material goods can easily set the unsuspecting up for disappointment. To one lady the receipt of a dozen red blooms might be a delight. To another this might be the source of much sneezing and discomfort. To another partner chocolates may delight, but to the dieter this may be seen as an act of sabotage instead of love. Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but another may prefer her partner not to financially tax their tight budget with such frivolity. Although February 14th is behind us, there are still 364 days to celebrate your love, if you are fluent in the languages of love.

Relationship expert, Gary Chapman, theorizes that there are 5 universal languages of love (1995). We tend to express affection in the manner in which we wish to receive it. Unfortunately our partners may speak another dialect. This leads to frustration on the part of the giver and disappointment on the part of the receiver, who often does not recognize of the efforts put forth. Just as a match with one partner speaking solely Japanese and the other speaking solely Spanish would fail to fully flourish, relationships involving partners who speak different love languages are limited. Fortunately it is easier to learn your partner's love language than mastering Mandarin.

Business owners delight in Chapman's first identified language of affection, gift giving. In today's society material expressions of emotions are extended to us even before we take our first breath. The baby shower offers a chance for friends and family to celebrate the pending new addition. Flowers send messages of congratulations, condolences, gratitude, and Jewelry may be bestowed to mark significant events in life, including engagements, graduations, and even retirements. It may be hard to believe, but some see gift giving as an attempt to purchase affections rather than as a genuine expression of devotion.

Many do not wish to receive material tokens, but prefer to enjoy quality time with their beloveds. Chapman explains that the giving of time, one of the most precious commodities we have, may be appreciated by some as greater than any material gift one could be bestowed. Spending an evening snuggled together watching a favorite movie or sneaking off for an impromptu weekend alone speaks to the soul of those who view the giving of time as the most romantic gesture of all.

As children we are taught that kind words garner greater promise than hurtful comments. Chapman contends many see the giving and receiving of words of affirmation as effective tools to enhance fondness for between partners. A simple "Good morning Beautiful" can put a smile on a lady's face and carry her through the entire day. Leaving notes with sayings such as "I love you," "Your smile brightens my world," or "Last night was amazing" in places your guy is sure to find them will keep the romance alive if words of affirmation are his preferred love language.

Acts of service may warm our loved ones' hearts, according to Chapman's work. A husband making sure his wife has a full tank of gas in her car or bringing her breakfast in bed may find himself rewarded by her recording his favorite television show or making his favorite dish for dinner. A mother may find it heart warming to come home to her son tidying the house or helping a sibling with homework. Doing something kind for the object of your affections rarely goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

Physical touch expresses attraction and affection and cements the bonds between partners. Be it holding your loved one's hand while driving or consistently greeting him with a kiss at the end of the day the extent of this love language is limited only by your imagination. Couples write their ownscripts for physical touch. It may be as innocent as placing a hand on her shoulder while you sleep or rubbing his neck when he has a headache to joining one another in the shower. This love language not only strengthens bonds, but has been shown to promote health and well being.

As relationships mature, couples' love languages evolve as the individuals learn more about one another and what makes the other feel appreciated. As individuals age and face new experiences their own love languages may shift. We may come to hold dear expressions of affection extended by our mates, even if they are not in our preferred love language. The simple act of making the effort to learn the other's love language is a demonstration of devotion in itself.

For more information on this topic check out The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. To determine your own love language take the quiz at

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Insecurity & The Media

The great director, producer, and screenwriter, Francis Ford Coppola, once said "I don't think there is an artist of any value that doesn't doubt what they're doing." When we watch an Oscar winning performance we don't consider how many takes or do overs were required to give us that perfect film.  When we see a model gracing the cover of Vogue, we don't realize how many shots and how much air brushing it took to get that immaculate cover. We hold ourselves to impossible standards. Standards that even the professionals cannot reach.

Whenever I see a sparkling, clean home on television I secretly wish mine was like that. I find myself assuming every other American woman has somehow mastered the art of meticulously cleaning, decorating, and bringing home the bacon too. I beat myself up because there are just not enough hours in the day to reach let alone maintain a film ready house. Even though I know if the cameras panned out 9 times out of 10 it is not even a home I am viewing, but a carefully constructed set created by dozens of hands. Even when it is a real house dozens of hands pitch in to make it camera ready. Unfortunately, I only have 2 hands and they are too busy juggling to dust my baseboards or remove the cobweb I saw in the kitchen last night.

The fact is we all feel that we have fallen short in some area of life, if not several. The media has taught us to judge ourselves against their make believe standards. Advertising executives peddle their wares by feeding on our insecurities. Fear is the number one seller of goods in America. Fear of injury or incomptent medical treatment, don't wait for a disaster to occur call 1-800- Lawyers now. We have operators standing by to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Fear of aging? Buy the same wrinkle cream that has kept Cindy Crawford looking decades younger than her half century years. Fear of getting flabby? Get the latest extreme workout DVD. If that is not enough hurry to sign up for the newest meal delivery service promising you will see the pounds melt away. Fear of having a poor golf game? Buy the newest training device endorsed by Tiger, sure to give you a drive of 200 yards or your money back.

As models and celebrities grace the covers of magazines in the grocery store check out lane, many of us subconsciously wish we had Debra Messing's gorgeous red locks, Halle Berry's toned abs, Jeffrey Dean Mogan's killer smile, or Tim McGraw's beautiful wife. The fact is that none of these people were born perfect. They have an entourage of professionals at their beck and call. Personal trainers, stylists and publicists, hair and makeup teams, and even Botox on demand are all in celebrities' arsenals stocked for career success. They make it their jobs to turn heads and invest big bucks in keeping up their images and employing only the best to fight their own insecurities.

Those in the public eye wield the kind of money and expert contacts that most of us just don't  have at our disposal. Instead we press our faces up to our screens and secretly envy those who do. We fall to the mercy of modern day Mad Men, making purchases we can't afford and/or don't really need based on celebrity endorsements and our own fears of not measuring up. Falling prey to celebrity endorsements makes us feel more like them, the elite with perfect air brushed lives.

This would explain the 2 lipsticks I recently added to my collection of a dozen, just because these 2 were named for Julianne Moore. Did I need 2 more lipsticks? No, of course not, but having them in my purse makes me feel a little more special. Painting my lips with them makes me feel a little more like I could be the perfect starlet she shows the camera.

The fact is perfection would get annoying after awhile. As Emma Stone's character in "Crazy, Stupid Love" pointed out who wants a partner who looks Photoshopped? I want someone who will eat Haagen Daz and snuggle with me at 2am while watching the latest Hollywood production, even if we are surrounded by 3 baskets of unfolded laundry and that cobweb I am secretly afraid to pull down. Someone who will tell me I am just as beautiful as Julianne Moore, even when I am not wearing her namesake.

I call on all of my readers to find the perfection hidden within. Cast aside the media scripted standards and create your own. Commit to being the best version of you possible. I think you will find that you are just right for the life you have designed.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Welcome to Functional Dysfunction, a blog devoted to the musings and insights of a mental health professional and freelance writer as I maneuver the twisted journey we call life. If you have stumbled onto this blog seeking wisdom or advice, you may find helpful information along the way. If there is a specific topic you wish covered just dash out an email and I will try to cover it in a professional manner. Please understand that this blog does not provide therapy. If you are in need of professional counseling please consult a licensed therapist in your area. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others please call 911 immediately. 

For the most part this blog is devoted to exposingy sides of a mental health professional and the world of a freelance writer that you don't regularly see in a light, friendly manner. By exposing the inner workings of my mind, I hope to shed light on the fact that we all have struggles, regardless of our educational levels or professions. It is true that many counselors entered their fields to find their own answers. In the end, we are all just human beings striving to reach our potentials and find our purposes, while navigating the rapids of life. When behind the masks each of us wears around others, we are all hot messes in one way or another.

Please note that the opinions and experiences presented in this blog are mine alone and should not be considered those of the mental health profession or other freelance writers. Names and other identifying information will be changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.